“Seeking to raise the debt limit” is out. “Preventing an economic shutdown” is in.
Debt is never mentioned. The word is “obligations.”
This is not an effort to enable the government to borrow more money. It is a battle to meet our nation’s obligations.
His urgent efforts to adopt a new vocabulary reflect the underlying reality of this battle as it morphs from Obamacare to the debt limit.
The words “debt” and “borrowing” and “spending” are politically anathema. So President Obama has to invent new words to describe his position.
Even tactically, the president is not refusing to negotiate; he is refusing to hold our nation’s credit hostage and to meet Republican demands for ransom.
All of these word games are designed to camouflage how unattractive the president’s position really is. Every American understands that before your raise your credit limit on your cards, you had better limit your spending and change your ways.
House Speaker John Boehner must not let the tactical arguments over who is at fault for not talking to whom replace the fundamental question of curbing spending in the national debate.
Boehner also has precedent on his side. And he needs to use it more. Two years ago, Obama negotiated over the debt limit and agreed to spending cuts in return for avoiding a default. And the spending cuts have been implemented and have succeeded in helping to cut the budget deficit in half.
Boehner should cite the maneuvers of two years ago as an example of bipartisan cooperation and call for the same spirit today.
In the meantime, why doesn’t Boehner reopen the government, now that he is fighting over the debt limit?
It would be a mistake to do so. President Obama still has the 14th Amendment provision in his pocket. The amendment, adopted after the Civil War to assure that the debt incurred in winning that conflict would be paid, says that the “public debt of the United States, authorized by law, shall not be questioned.”
Obama could pull the amendment out of his pocket and use it to blow right past the debt limit without even asking the Congress or the Republicans. But if the government is closed, the GOP would still have the leverage to stop him.
Republicans made a mistake in shutting down the government over Obamacare. But now that they have backed the focus off of Obamacare and put it on additional borrowing authority, they need to stand firm and fight hard.
Morris, a former adviser to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and President Bill Clinton, is the author of 16 books including his latest, Screwed and Here Come the Black Helicopters. Contact him at dickmorris.com.